In Israel police have arrested ex Melbourne school Principal Malka Leifer who has been wanted in Victoria for 74 instances of alleged sexual abuse of children. It is alleged that Leifer has faked a mental illness in Israel so as not to be extradited to Australia.
Leifer has been accused of sexual misconduct towards several school children during her time as principal at Melbourne’s heavily religious Adass Israel girl’s school. Leifer fled to Israel when the allegations came to light in 2008.
When Australia requested her extradition in 2014 she was arrested by Israeli police. Leifer was released on bail and refused to attend any of her extradition hearings claiming that her mental illness was too severe for her to face court.
She had recently claimed mental illness again when appearing at a psychiatric review board. Despite this, Israeli police have conducted their own investigation into her claims of mental illness.
After her arrest in a West Bank settlement on Monday morning, police stated that they had arrested a middle-aged woman who had been “suspected of obstructing court proceedings”. They also said that she has attempted to obscure evidence against her.
The police said they had uncovered “new evidence” that contradicted her claims of mental illness. They have said that they believe she is capable of standing trial for extradition.
The Israeli police revealed that this was the result of an “ongoing investigation” cooperating with Australian law enforcement. They said that the arrest has been made on evidence found in the last couple of weeks.
The police revealed that in 2017 they had noticed significant signs that Leifer had been faking her mental illness in order to delay her extradition hearing. This prompted the police to investigate her claims.
They went on to say that the extradition process has resumed and that Leifer would stand trial. The police described an ongoing process whereby Leifer would eventually stand trial in Australia for the crimes she has been accused of.
Many of Leifer’s alleged victims have expressed their satisfaction with the work of the Israeli police. One former student, Dassi Erlich, said that they felt a “mixture of elation and relief” and were anticipating the trial of Leifer in Australia.
For the alleged victims of Leifer’s abuse this is a huge breakthrough in an ordeal that has lasted 10 years. While seeking justice for themselves, alleged victims have also expressed they are glad Leifer is not in a position where she can cause more harm to other children.
During a visit to Israel in September last year Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, about the case. Turnbull had also meet with some of the alleged victims prior to leaving for his trip.